Match report: MK Dons 0 Ipswich Town 1 – Pitman’s early goal enough to secure another away win
Brett Pitman’s early goal secured Ipswich Town a 1-0 win at MK Dons in this lunchtime’s televised clash.
The Blues striker stooped to head home Luke Chambers’ fine cross inside the six-yard, with Freddie Sears and Daryl Murphy both missing chances to double the lead before the break.
It was all MK Dons after the break though and in the end Town were left clinging on, keeper Dean Gerken making three smart stops and others putting their body on the line to secure all three points.
However, up until the frantic finish, the home side, for all their possession, had been restricted almost exclusively to long-range attempts as Ipswich defended superbly.
This is the first time since January 2009 that Ipswich have won three away games in a row, MK Dons having now lost 11 of their last 16 league games.
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Blues boss McCarthy had declared himself happy with the performance levels of his players in a 2-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough and named an unchanged starting XI as a result, the fit-again Ryan Fraser on the bench.
Dons manager Karl Robinson had slammed his players following a limp 2-0 loss at Brentford, saying they all had three weeks to save their careers at the club, but made just one alteration to his team – Samir Carruthers replacing Diego Poyet in midfield.
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The hosts started brightly enough and managed to get their fans, those that had turned up to barely half-fill the stadium, behind them.
Daryl Murphy dragged a shot wide early on for Town, but McCarthy’s men were then on the back foot for a while. Cole Skuse had to make an important sliding tackle on Nicky Maynard in the box, then ex-Town forward Dean Bowditch curled just wide from the edge of the area.
It was Ipswich who broke the deadlock in the 10th minute though. First Jonathan Douglas provided a fine chipped pass from the middle out to the right, then Luke Chambers curled an even better low cross into the danger zone. Pitman was left with the simple task of converting with a stooping header from inside the six-yard box.
Ipswich did see more of the ball after their opener but choose to play long on most occasions. It was an approach that almost paid dividends too.
In the 16th minute, Sears raced onto Jonas Knudsen’s long ball over the top and lobbed an angled shot high over on-rushing keeper David Martin. The ball bounced in front of the goal and then went agonisingly wide of the right post.
Douglas – who had been here, there and everywhere – sent a dipping volley just over the bar in the 21st minute.
Then, just after the half hour mark, Murphy latched onto Tommy Smith’s hopeful punt and, with Martin again rushing off his line, he stabbed a difficult angled effort into the near stanchion.
MK Dons looked shaky at times, but then they would suddenly string a few decent passes together in the final third. Bowditch’s low cross zipped across the area at one point, while Ipswich had to defend a series of corners well.
When the half-time whistle came you sensed that Town, who could have been out of sight, very much still needed a killer second.
That goal could almost arrived less than two minutes after the restart, Murphy cutting in from the left and firing a powerful shot just wide of the right post.
The hosts responded and Carl Baker, after working himself half a yard of room on the edge of the box, saw a well-hot shot blocked by Smith.
Milton Keynes enjoyed another good little spell of pressure just before the hour mark. Jordan Spence got across Smith and put a header over in the 56th minute. Seconds later, Bowditch saw a low, on-target shot deflected just wide by the sliding Christophe Berra.
There was another good chance for MK Dons in the 61st minute after Chambers had fouled Josh Murphy down the side of the box. Bowditch tapped the free-kick short and Murphy’s powerful shot into a crowded area struck team-mate Dean Lewington in the face before going just over the bar.
The home team then had penalty appeals turned down in the 66th minute after sub Dean Powell felt his shirt was tugged when backing into Knudsen in the area.
Ipswich counter-attacked at pace, Sears driving forwards with the ball, but the chance came to nothing. It was a rare forward foray for the visitors in the second half.
Nevertheless, Town were gifted a golden chance to double their lead in the 72nd minute when the dithering Carrauthers was dispossessed by Skuse in a dangerous area. That presented Murphy with time and space, but he rushed and lashed a shot wildly over the bar.
That effort was well off target, but Murphy’s next attempt went only inches wide. After a corner was only half-cleared, Maitland-Niles sent a low cross in from the right and Murphy’s side-footed shot whizzed past the right-hand post he was in line with.
A goal at that moment would well and truly have killed the game off, but instead MK Dons went into the final 10 minutes still full of belief.
Indeed, it required two fine saves from keeper Dean Gerken to keep the Blues in front. First, he flung himself to his right to push Ben Reeve’s rifled effort around the post. Then, after the resulting corner was only half-cleared, Gerken did well to tip Carruthers’ dipping shot over the bar.
Skuse fired a tame shot straight at Martin, following a neat one-two with late sub David McGoldrick, and the game then entered stoppage-time.
It was a frantic finish, the Blues clinging on in the final moments.
Gerken made yet another smart stop, the in-form custodian turning Rob Hall’s well-struck angled effort around the near post.
Home keeper Martin then came up to join the attack for a late corner, the ball twice almost falling to him in the box.
Town eventually scrambled the ball clear, but there was still time for Hall’s powerful shot to strike Knudsen in the face from close-range. It instantly floored the Dane, the physios came on and, much to the home fans’ disgust, the whistle blew soon after the restart.
MK DONS (4-4-2): Martin; Spence (Hall 86), McFadzean, Kay, Lewington (cpt); Baker (Powell 62), Carruthers, Potter, Murphy; Bowditch (Reeves 62), Maynard.
Unused subs: Cropper, Hodson, Poyet, Gallagher.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Maitland-Niles (Parr 78), Skuse, Douglas, Sears (McGoldrick 86); Pitman, Murphy.
Unused subs: Bialkowski, Malarczyk, Tabb, Coke, Fraser.
Booked: Douglas (22), Chambers (61), Sears (74)
Referee: Gavin Ward